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To homework or not

September 07, 2019 - Saturday 4:09 AM by Chito Fuentes

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To do homework or not?

This is the question staring lawmakers as two bills were filed in Congress seeking to ban homework for school children.

Sorsogon 1st district Rep. Evelina Escudero filed a bill that seeks to eliminate homework as a class assignment.

Escudero filed House Bill 3611 which promotes a no-homework policy for kinder to grade 12 and barring the taking of textbooks out of the school for kinder to grade 6 students in all public and private schools.

“Homework assignments can deprive students and parents precious quality time for rest, relaxation and interaction after school hours and even on weekends,” she said in her explanatory note.

Escudero’s bill follows a similar one filed by Quezon City Rep. Alfredo Vargas entitled “No Homework on Weekend Act of 2019.”

Vargas’ House Bill 388 went even farther by proposing a P50,000 fine and jail time of up to two years for violators. Curiously, Vargas later apologized for the “accidental insertion” of the fine.

Education Secretary Leonor Briones has endorsed the “no homework policy,” drawing criticism from cynics.

Critics immediately pounced on the proposal with ACT party list Rep. France Castro saying this was part of academic freedom and teaching strategy of teachers.

For sure, the debate has just started and will probably drag on for months - if not years. 

Boholanos, however, need not look very far to see what experience has taught the students of the Central Visayan Institute Foundation (CVIF) in Jagna town.

Last year, 25 CVIF grade 12 students passed the University of the Philippines College Admissions Test (UPCAT), arguably one of the toughest entrance exams in the country.

This was the latest of a series of CVIF’s phenomenal performance in the UPCAT that raised the eyebrows of education officials and experts more than a decade ago. While many big-name institutions in the metropolis and urban areas are struggling with the dreaded entrance exam, students from the sleepy port town made passing the UPCAT look easy and even ordinary. 

The two eminent scientists behind CVIF’s eye-popping feat, the husband and wife team of Doctors Christopher and Marivic Bernido, have received distinguished awards from prestigious bodies including the Ramon Magsaysay Foundation and Metrobank in recognition of their exemplary contributions to education and the sciences. 

I remember talking to the mild-mannered couple many years back while doing a story for the Philippine Daily Inquirer. Among other things, they pointed out a school policy not to give assignments to their students.

The Bernidos said that they want both children and parents to spend quality time together when they are at home. While learning was intense in school, students are not burdened with additional tasks when they are outside the walls of the classroom. I’m not sure if this policy remains today but that was one thing that struck me then.

Of course, it is not as simple as that.

Many dysfunctional families, however, almost always find ways not to bond during free time together and children can use school assignments as an “honorable” alibi to be with classmates and friends when they should be with family. In the same manner, parents do not run out of excuses, oftentimes work-related, to stay out late or be away for days or weeks – or in the case of OFWS, months and or even years.

As a Tagalog saying goes: “kapag gusto, maraming paraan; kapag ayaw, maraming dahilan.”

There is no scientific data available, yet, to ascertain what CVIF’s no-assignment policy contributed to the success or failure of the homes of children enrolled in the school.

What is non-debatable is that CVIF has consistently performed well in UPCAT exams. This can be a good place to start for those intending to do research – both for those who are pushing for bills banning homework and those opposed to it. 

Homework or not? That is the question.